November 24, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Chris McCosky

Chris McCosky's Four Downs: Lions' players-only meeting in the cards

First down

Both Reggie Bush and Nate Burleson hinted after the ugly 24-21 loss to Tampa Bay Sunday that they planned to set up a players-only meeting before the team starts getting ready to play the Packers on Thursday.

“We definitely need to have a team meeting,” Bush said. “We have to have a players-only meeting and really dig deep inside and find out what we’re made of. It’s going to take everybody on this team, coaching staff, players, to be able to overcome this.”

Burleson concurred.

“We’ve got to talk this week, a players-only meeting to figure out a way to fine-tune our focus,” Burleson said. “Guys were focused at the beginning of the game, but there were drops in our energy and we let them continue to stay motivated. We have to find a way to snatch away the motivation of opposing teams, especially when we are at home.”

The Lions, with a chance to seize firm control in the NFC North, have not only lost two straight, they have done so by playing well below their standards. Bush said he didn’t think the team has buckled under the weight of expectations.

“I didn’t get the vibe that we were kind of riding high, but we definitely didn’t handle the situation the best way,” Bush said. “We didn’t handle being in first place in our division like we should have. We didn’t handle it right.”

Coach Jim Schwartz said the team was prepared and did not take Tampa lightly because of their poor record. The players agreed.

“We didn’t take them lightly at all,” Burleson said. “I’ll let you know right now, that was one of the first things that coach Schwartz, defensive coordinator, offensive coordinator told us. This is a good team. Don’t be fooled by the record. They said, ‘Don’t believe us. Just go watch the film.’ We watched the film all week and everybody understood the type of team that was coming here to play.”

One of the points of discussion, undoubtedly, will be to purge this loss quickly and get ready for Green Bay.

“That’s the motivation,” Burleson said. “We have to show up to work ready to put this behind us. It’s hard. I told the guys, you should be mad….Be mad that we lost. We had a ton of mistakes and we had a chance to win. Be mad about that but there’s so much to be excited about.

“We’ve got a game in a few days. We got a chance to win the division. There’s so much more to be happy about than to be overly frustrated.”

Second down

As if bouncing back from such a horrendous performance wasn’t tough enough in a short week, the Lions very well could go into the Packers game either without receiver Calvin Johnson entirely, or with him playing at a diminished capacity.

Johnson was moving very gingerly on the right knee that’s been bothering him all season, the same one that kept him out of the game at Green Bay in Week 5. He seemed to bang it hard on a couple of plays Sunday.

In fact, he took himself off the field at least three different times Sunday, all after he made a catch and landed on that knee.

Johnson did not talk about the injury afterward. His normal routine has been to take treatment on the knee Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and return to the practice by Thursday or Friday.

He has needed the full week to get the knee as healthy as it’s been these last couple of week. He won’t have that much time to get it right this week.

Third down

The Lions weren’t able to fully exploit a tattered Buccaneers secondary. They started the game without starting safety Dashon Goldson, who served a suspension. And they played the second half without All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, who left with a groin injury.

“Definitely frustrating,” said Revis, who was matched with Calvin Johnson in the first half and allowed four catches for 61 yards. “I want to be out there and help my team win and compete. But the secondary did an awesome job. I tip my hat to those guys.”

Rookie Jonathan Banks took over on Johnson, but the Bucs changed their scheme. Where Revis was playing him mostly man-to-man, they went to more zone and two-deep coverages.

The Lions scored on their first drive of the second half; nothing after that.

“There was a lot of discussion because that was probably the most individualized game plan that we put together with Revis on Johnson,” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “When you do that it affects all the other people because they are playing complementary to that so it was hard to go back.”

Banks, Kelcie McCray, Keith Tandy, Danny Gorrer and Mark Barron all stepped up and played well in Revis’ absence.

“It’s just the turnovers,” Johnson said. “If we don’t have the turnovers we look great out there, we have a blowout. But when we have turnovers, this is what happens.”

Fourth down

Same old Lions? The question was asked of several players Sunday. Needless to say, the question wasn’t well-received.

“It’s your opinion,” Ndamukong Suh said. “I don’t believe that, by any means. Same old Lions? I’m not sure what that exactly means. I guess if they want to say it’s the same losing Lions, but I don’t believe in that.

“Like I said to the comments about going in other cities and having a losing streak there, you can’t beat history. You can’t change what happened in history. You just go out there and control the future and live in the present.”

Burleson also dismissed it.

“We try not to listen to the people outside of the doors,” he said. “At the end of the day, if we win big, people are going to praise us and pick us for the Super Bowl. If we lose, tough, then people are going to say these Lions suck and it’s the same old Lions. We can’t dive into what people say.

“What we’ve got to do is understand that we’re a good team and if we play a decent game, we have a chance of winning by more than a touchdown.”

—Josh Katzenstein contributed

Lions running back Reggie Bush along with teammate Nate Burleson suggests a players-only meeting is necessary to sort out the team's on-field problems. / Robin Buckson / Detroit News
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